Let’s hope college football provides a welcome respite for the people of Nashville after the Christmas Day events in their city. Here’s my Music City Bowl Preview:
Iowa’s Offense vs. Missouri’s Defense
In his first full season as the starter, sophomore quarterback Spencer Petras had an up-and-down year. He completed 57.1% of his passes for 1,569 yards, nine touchdowns, and five interceptions. Overall, the passing game ranks just 97th in FBS. Ihmir Smith-Marsette led the team in receiving with just 345 yards and four scores. Tight end Sam LaPorta finished just behind him- could he be the next NFL tight end to come from the Iowa?
As is often the case at Iowa, the Hawkeyes are stronger on the ground. Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent combined for 1,194 rushing yards and seven touchdowns apiece. The team averages 171 yards per game. Missouri’s 63rd-ranked run defense allows 162.2 yards per game. I’d call this a coin flip, except that linebacker Nick Bolton has declared for the NFL draft and won’t play in the Music City Bowl. Bolton leads the Tigers in tackles with 95 (sixth in the SEC). ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. has him rated as the third-best inside linebacker in this year’s draft. Needless to say, the Tigers will miss him.
Overall, the 66th-ranked Mizzou defense has struggled against good teams. They shut out Vanderbilt, and held South Carolina and Kentucky to 10 points each. In each of the rest of their games, the opposition scored at least 35. (In fairness, they did win two of those games: a 45-41 victory over LSU and 50-48 against Arkansas).
Missouri’s Offense vs. Iowa’s Defense
Tiger quarterback Connor Bazelak threw for a lot of yards (2,366) but only seven touchdowns, to go along with six interceptions. Although the team doesn’t have a dominant receiver, they have six players with at least 250 receiving yards. Their passing game is ranked 32nd in FBS.
The Tigers’ big problem on offense could be Iowa’s propensity to take the ball away. They did so 11 times in eight games. Missouri would be well advised to locate the Hawkeyes’ Jack Doerner before throwing the ball- and then throw in the other direction. Doerner leads the team with three picks.
The run game is exactly the opposite of the passing game. Larry Rountree III leads the team with 972 yards and 14 touchdowns- over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns ahead of #2 Tyler Badie. Rountree hit the 100-yard mark in five of Mizzou’s 10 games. Surprisingly, they average just 135.2 yards on the ground per game.
Music City Bowl Preview: Prediction
This should be a really entertaining, competitive game. I could see it going either way, but I’m giving Iowa a very slight edge because of a) their secondary and b) the absence of Nick Bolton for Missouri.